The Chow Kit area in Kuala Lumpur has long been known for unsavoury activities. At the mention of the name, folks living in Kuala Lumpur would often steer clear or squirm in discomfort because it was once known to be a hotbed for crime, prostitution and drug dealings.
Those who grew up in Chow Kit discovered the ugly realities of a tainted community before uncovering the true beauty of the city. For youth growing up in Chow Kit, it was almost forgivable if they caved into the vices of drugs, gangsterism and crime because the influences are inescapable.
However, Awaludin Jalalus Shuti managed to stay clean and uncompromised. At the age of 30, Awaludin is somewhat of a role model to his peers and also the founder of Chow Kit Youth (CKY), a non-profit organisation that aims to help youth-at-risk living in the said area.
He grew up seeing the bad and beautiful of Chow Kit. Awaludin had fond childhood memories where he remembered the togetherness and community feel in Chow Kit.
When I was younger, I remember everyone [living] in Chow Kit knew everyone. Neighbours and even workers in shop lots in the area would act as a CCTV for everybody to remind bad guys to not mess with anybody in the area.– Awaludin Jalalus Shuti, founder of Chow Kit Youth (CKY)
Awaludin was well aware of the dangers in Chow Kit and history tells us that it is infamously known as Kuala Lumpur’s red light district. Amidst the dangers in the area, rent in Chow Kit is low as most people did not want to stay there. Over time, it also became known as a poor district with dingy and shoddy pigeonhole rooms.
From a young age, Awaludin witnessed many harsh realities that are not a norm for young boys – from gang fights to police raids to unconsented nudity. He recalls an incident at the age of 10.
It was something really unforgettable for me. Imagine one day walking back home from school, you see a huge police raid on this brothel and someone running away bare naked with only a pair of slippers trying to escape the cops.
It was a funny scene at the time, but as time passed I felt more sympathetic. – Awaludin Jalalus Shuti, founder of Chow Kit Youth (CKY)
There was another time when Awaludin had a close shave with drugs. He remembers seeing a friend put several packets of drugs into a bag that was delivered to a buyer. Years later, Awaludin shared that the same friend was hanged due to drug trafficking.
We should have known better, but back then it made sense. Working a normal job gave us at most RM4. However, he made RM50 or sometimes RM100 just for delivering drugs per trip. Back then RM50 or even RM100 was a huge sum. – Awaludin Jalalus Shuti, founder of Chow Kit Youth(CKY)
Finding His Identity And Community In Chow Kit
Despite all these ordeals, Awaludin was able to persevere due to the help of Yayasan Chow Kit (YCK). YCK was a huge part of Awaludin’s life as it helped him to become a better person for himself and his family as well as for the community.
Yayasan Chow Kit helped my friends and me a lot throughout the years. The foundation provided us with an education that helped us understand what drugs are, the dangers of drugs, how it looks and how to avoid them. That way we are better prepared when we are on the streets. – Awaludin Jalalus Shuti,founder of Chow Kit Youth (CKY)
YCK offers comprehensive and holistic support to youth at risk and they still do so today, starting with understanding the story of a person and working on a case-by-case approach.
As time went on, Awaludin also saw the transformation of the Chow Kit area with more NGOs working in support of the community and the government cracking down on crime and illegal activities there.
The change was not immediate, but slowly and surely, bad influences started to drop off and new life came into the community. Streets became less dangerous and people hung out for good reason and not just for gang fights.
Awaludin recalls an incident where he and his friends sat together at a mamak stall talking about their experiences, childhood and how to make sense of it. They also talked about what the future held for them and how to live meaningful lives.
The time came to come up with an identity for us. We figured since most of us were from YCK, why not just change the position of the letter Y. That was how we came up with Chow Kit Youth. It was just wordplay. – Awaludin Jalalus Shuti, founder of Chow Kit Youth (CYK)
Arts As An Expression Of Hope
With the formation of Chow Kit Youth, Awaludin and his group of friends did a theatre play. As the founder of Chow Kit Youth, Awaludin wants to make a difference in the life of people in Chow Kit.
Chow Kit Youth as an organisation aims to give youth at risk a new lease of life by uncovering their potential and surrounding them with a wholesome community to grow.
It’s sad to see that we have talents in Chow Kit, but they are unable to blossom because of this stigma that people have when it comes to Chow Kit. Hence, Chow Kit Youth is here to help the community and the youth to build back their confidence. This would provide everybody with a fair chance in life be it studies or a career. – Awaludin Jalalus Shuti, founder of Chow Kit Youth (CYK)
Chow Kit Youth focuses on three major aspects. The development of talents in Chow Kit, caring for the environment as well as caring for the community by encouraging youths to participate in volunteering activities to help each other.
We plan on making Chow Kit an artistic district. Everywhere you go in Chow Kit would be filled with murals on walls, accessible theatrical plays and even art done by the community itself. We know this is not easy but we are taking things one step at a time to achieve this goal. – Awaludin Jalalus Shuti,founder of Chow Kit Youth (CYK)
CKY is currently developing the youths by allowing them to express themselves through theatrical acting. They have also recently organised a movie screening to support the new building for Yayasan Chow Kit by ways of sponsors and donations.
With CKY achieving so many milestones, Awaludin mentioned that the very first project that they did was a milestone he would always feel proud of ever since the foundation of CKY.
My friend who was shy, and not proficient in English during our time with Yayasan Chow Kit, out of a sudden went ahead and pitched to a company.
He requested an estimated amount of RM2000 as funds to buy items such as paints, and other equipment to paint the house of an orphanage, Rumah Titian Kaseh. To our surprise, the company gave us the full amount as requested and this was pitched by someone whom we thought would never do a pitch in front of people. – Awaludin Jalalus Shuti, founder of Chow Kit Youth (CKY)
Awaludin hopes that Malaysians will once again see Chow Kit as a destination of hope and not harm, of positivity and not negativity, or community and not crime. Instead of the traditional red light district that it used to be, Awaludin hopes that Chow Kit will be recognised as an artistic district that provides every individual with a fair chance at discovering their identity and potential and be given the freedom and access to express it for the greater good of all.
Written by: Ryshaune Lee, edited by Wiki Impact Team
Explore our sources:
- Nuha, F. (2022). Chow Kit Youth are banding together to change lives.Free Malaysia Today. Link.
- MalaysianDigest. (2013). Malaysian Road Names: Who’s Who? Link.
- Hassandarvish, M. (2021). Life of misery: Chow Kit’s urban poor left with little to no hope due to COVID-19 pandemic (VIDEO). Link.
- Department of Statistics Malaysia. (2020). Crime Statistics, Malaysia, 2020. Link.
- Chow Kit Youths (CKY). Facebook. Link.